"Oak Creek Flow" 9x12, pastel - contact Michael
We've had some warm days this week with temperatures rising into the mid-60s. The snowpack in Flagstaff must be starting to melt, because the waters of Oak Creek here in Sedona are rising. In the painting above, I feature a set of stepping stones at Red Rock Crossing that, at low water, allow one to cross the creek without getting wet shoes. Right now, there's nearly a foot of water spilling over the stones. Today, if you wanted to hike the trails on the other side, which are reachable in about five minutes if use the stepping stones, you'd have to drive nearly an hour to the trailhead. Or you use hip-waders and a walking stick, as I saw one gentleman do.
This is a pastel week for me, but the process of painting this kind of water is the same as with oil. First, I looked for the oranges and reds on the creek bottom and lightly blocked those in. Next, I added the darker water - greens and browns. After that, I began to add some of the reflected qualities, which were the dark purples and lighter sky-blues. I put in all these layers with fairly light strokes, just letting the pastel kiss the surface. Finally, I went back in with dark accents, such as the purply-browns in the rock shadows and the dark greens in the grass shadows.
I had to work a bit at getting the feeling of water flowing over the stepping stones. I had to work the layers back-and-forth, putting in the rich orange of the barely-submerged rocks, next adding the darker tones of water and then the reflected parts - and then going back to the rich orange again. The froth I added early on, taking care to let subsequent layers "weave" it into the fabric of the water, and then added highlights at the end.
This was painted on a sheet of Kitty Wallis Sanded Pastel Paper, the Belgian Mist color. This mid-tone, warm grey was perfect for letting me establish values quickly.